American Healthcare

The majority of Republicans don’t believe you should be required to pay into healthcare, or buy insurance, if you are young and/or healthy. This is an absurd way of looking at insurance.

Think of it this way: in rural Tennessee there was a fellow who forgot to pay for fire protection. So when his home started on fire the fire department arrived with one purpose–to prevent the fire from spreading to the man’s neighbors who had paid for fire protection. The man begged and pleaded for fire protection services to put out the blaze but they refused. He didn’t pay the fee.

You don’t buy insurance because you’re house is currently on fire any more than you pay taxes to pay for police protection services only when your home is in the act of being broken into. The whole premise of insurance is to have some capacity to deal with adversity, obstacles and problems, etc. in the future.

When it comes to healthcare you might not be sick now but odds are you’ll eventually, we’ll all eventually, make use of it; it makes some intuitive sense then to have everyone pay into insurance so we can pool our collective wealth avoiding such things as:

  • Bankrupting families who have to sell homes, cars, cash in assets, etc. to pay for exorbitant health care costs in order to seek treatment. When I was younger I had a number of medical procedures to determine whether or not I had cancer. These procedures would’ve cost me thousands of dollars (money I would not have had in my early 20s). Luckily I was born in Canada so I paid nothing for any of these procedures.
  • Pushing the elderly out of healthcare because a good proportion of them are stuck on a fixed income. My mother died of lung cancer in 1998. The various procedures to detect and attempts at treating the disease would’ve bankrupted my family; however, we paid nothing, not a cent for her treatment (and yes we did pay something, we paid taxes over time, and consequently we were able to worry about just caring for my mom in her last days instead of paying for her care).
  • Needlessly forcing young people off of their parent’s insurance plans, i.e. even young and apparently healthy people can suddenly grow sick.

I’ve met a number of Americans, particularly ones in their 20s, who were forced into the following gamble: don’t buy insurance this year so I can pay for that car or student loan. They gamble with the fact that cancer and a host of other illnesses do not discriminate and frequently appear as though out of nowhere. Why gamble in this way when it isn’t even necessary? There are, ironically, more cost-effective and productive approaches to healthcare than the private insurance Americans appear to love so much.

So, while there are some legitimate criticisms of a universal healthcare system like Canada or England has, e.g. long wait times, the use of older technology in diagnosis and treatment, etc. Canada’s system is far more efficient than whatever the heck America has had. Specifically, Canada has longer wait times because everyone–even homeless people–can access the healthcare system. (With that said, people who are seriously ill do not wait but are fast-tracked to the front so they can receive emergency treatment. Yet, no system is perfect, sometimes people do get overlooked…but far fewer compared to the millions of Americans who had no healthcare whatsoever prior to Obamacare.) The only reason you don’t find these longer wait times in the United States, historically speaking, is because private insurance systems naturally keeps millions of people out of the system because of cost. People who can’t afford insurance don’t make use of insurance or related health services. Good system? Stupid system.

In a meeting with all 52 senators at the White House today, President Trump argued that single payer (or the American equivalent of universal healthcare) doesn’t work because it would cost more money than would be taken in. I beg to differ. Canada, Sweden, Norway, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Finland, Belgium, etc. all  have universal healthcare systems (or socialized healthcare) and these countries are doing fine. Healthcare outcomes in these countries are much better than what Americans experience by comparison. Why can’t some Americans see this?

If you bombard people with a trope like “universal healthcare doesn’t work” or “socialized medicine” doesn’t work enough, you can convince people through shear repetition that it doesn’t work. The thing is the American free-market approach, or placing profit over people, doesn’t work compared to what other G20 countries do (you can Google “healthcare comparison outcome” and you’ll find article after article backing up what I’m saying here).

Ideology and political culture. Free market fundamentalism is an ideology that’s alive and well in the United States despite being discredited by not delivering what it promises to do, e.g. trickle down economics. American political culture is prevents a lot of people from seeing socialism as a living option, i.e. people have been pounded and pounded with anti-socialist, pro-free market tropes, since they were young they cannot tell the difference between liberal socialism and authoritarian communism. Also, it would be difficult to establish a centralized system in a country like America because the United States, historically speaking, has purposely set up a system where individual states are preserved from interference from the federal government. A country like Canada, therefore, which has a strong central government was, and is, able to do things more seamlessly than America. This doesn’t mean you cannot establish a single system for America; it just means there’s an additional hurdle in the American context.

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